Happiness is something you have to go after. And Gwen wants it bad enough to kill for it.
|Gwen rolled over and stretched her long body, her arms over her head as she slowly awoke from a peaceful night’s sleep. She opened her eyes and just stared at the canopy of light pastels over her head. Sitting up in bed, she looked at her surroundings in disdain, the sun, all ready up at this time, illuminated every cranny upon her critical inspection. Something inside her, a crazy notion if you will, made her choose these bright, airy colors when in reality she preferred the bold to the timid. Shaking off the shady thoughts that seem determined to ruin her day, she threw back the covers and moved toward the window. She dramatically moved the white, lacy curtains aside, reveling in the beautiful day.
This is the moment her children would come running through her bedroom door and throw themselves into her arms. But that’s only in her head, in reality her husband, Frank, never wanted children; therefore, they became an impossibility. Feeling a small twinge of the disappointment she felt when Frank refused children, she turned from the window grabbing her robe from the bed and leaving her room. She hurried down the stairs tightening the belt of her robe and checking her reflection in the hall mirror. She had to make sure she was presentable at all times which her husband made evident during their first year of marriage. She gently caressed her cheek as she remembered that day four years ago when she first realized she made a mistake in her marriage.
They had just gotten married three weeks ago and just returned from their honeymoon in Tahiti, still full of each other and high on life. Frank would come home in the middle of the day, giddy and excited, he couldn’t get enough of her, he said. He came through the door one day as she was coming down the stairs. She had just woke up. It wasn’t terribly late, about eleven. His sister, Evelyn, had kept her up all night the night before. She was going through a divorce and needed someone to talk to. Unfortunately she was self centered enough to talk all night with no consideration for other people. Gwen didn’t get to bed until almost dawn and then she promised herself she’d only sleep for a few hours. Just enough for her to function, she told herself as she fell asleep.
She awoke in a panic when she saw the clock on the bedside table. Rushing down the stairs, her hair a mess, her robe open to reveal her pajamas, she stood at the foot of the stairs as her husband came through the front door. He set his briefcase down and quickly walked to her kissing her sleep warmed lips. “Honey, what are you doing?” he rubbed her arms gently.
“I just woke up. I honestly didn’t mean to sleep so late,” he turned her around and with his arm around her back he gently guided her up the stairs, always mindful of the servants and their habit of pressing their ears against doors. She walked ahead of him barely noticing when he shut their bedroom door. “God, I don’t know what happened,” she yawned and rubbed the sleep from her large brown eyes.
He spun her around and grabbed her wrists, holding them up. “What were you thinking?” he quietly asked, his eyes ablaze with anger. When she didn’t answer he grabbed her hair, at least a handful. She wore it long back then and there was plenty for him to grab. He yanked hard, forcing her head back and exposing the vulnerable ling of her neck. “Did you think being my wife would be easy, that you can do whatever you want whenever you want?” She tried to explain but he cut her off. “Aw, you did, didn’t you,” he shook his head in disappointment.
Her head started to pound from the pressure put on her hairline as visions of her beloved husband’s eyes floated across her rapidly closing eyes. Her husband let her hair go, shoving her onto the unmade bed. Using both hands she pushed herself up on the bed, utterly confused and a little afraid. “What are you doing, Frank?” she asked her voice only slightly hitching on his name.
She pushed herself off the bed and stood next to her husband, searching his face questionably. He brought his hand up and before she could prepare, his open palm smacked across her cheek. She almost lost her balance, stumbling backward a few steps, the back of her knees smacked the foot of the bed, but she remained on her feet. She felt his hand print burn across her cheek, her cheekbone bleeding from the back of his wedding band.
Her eyes became frosted as she stared at the man she thought she knew so well. Her hand flew to her cheek to assess the damage. She tightened her mouth and lowered her arm. Her arms at her sides she walked once again to Frank, now with a purpose. She wasn’t expecting what came next. His fist came dead on, and plowed into her face.
This time she was knocked off her feet. She flew backward and lay on her back, staring at the ceiling nut not really seeing it. “You should have just stayed down, Gwen. It didn’t have to be like this, it you could just understand the order of things.” She heard a rustling and couldn’t for the life of her figure out what they were. Gwen lay on the bed still on her back, the red handprint drastically contrasted with her pale skin, her nose broken, her blood gushing out of her nostrils, all over her face.
She felt his shadow mover over her as he stared down at her. “Roll over, Gwen. It’ll be easier if you just flip onto your stomach. “ The horror of what he planned to do came crashing onto her head. He wanted to use the belt on her as if she were but a mere child instead of his wife! “It doesn’t hurt as much as you think it will, “ he whispered somewhere near her ear.
“Go to hell,” she chocked spitting out the blood that trickled down her throat. She started to laugh, but it was a wet laugh, almost hysterical.
“What’s so funny,” he stood, the belt clenched in his hand, his eyes ablaze with anger.
“It’s nothing, just my father was right about you, when he called you an insensitive prick and a stupid bastard.”
He made a low primitive animal sound at the base of his throat and yanked her arm rolling her over him. She braced herself for the inevitable, making a silent promise to herself, not to give him the satisfaction of hearing her cry out. “This’ll teach you to disobey me,” he brought the belt across her back once, then twice, again and again.
She winced the first few times, her grip tightened on the edge of the mattress, her fingers turning white. The belt shredded her back in lashes, she felt the blood trickle down her back to mix with the blood from her nose. The sheets turned red staining the white bed. Her husband gently removed the top of her pajamas and went at it again.
She shivered as she gracefully slid into her seat at the breakfast table. Her pearl pantsuit made her feel professional even though she wasn’t allowed the luxury of a job. Frank was at the other end of the long table trying to feign interest in the paper he held in front of him. His intense calculating blue eyes raked over every inch of her, looking for some imperfection to harp on. Finding none, “You look beautiful today. What’s the occasion?”
She pushed a strand of curling auburn hair out of her fair cream colored face, her gaze at him unfaltering. He didn’t notice her hazel flash and heard none of it in her tone. “I have some last minute shopping to do for he party tonight.”
“Okay, dear.” He drained the rest of his coffee standing up and walked to her. She felt his cold, hard lips press against the crown of her head, “You be good today.”
She sat there, totally composed, her hands in her lap until the front door slammed. She reached into her hair and pulled out all the bobby pins that held it in a severe bun. “Helen, can you clear the table?” She turned in her chair toward the kitchen, knowing the middle aged woman stood there silently and watched the scene.
“Yes, miss.” She picked the plates up from the other end of the table but paused on her way to the kitchen. “ma’m, can I speak feely?”
She stood up and faced her, “Of course.”
“Well, Miss, you shouldn’t be treated like that.” Now’s she said it and was glad she got it off her chest. If she got fired so be it.
Gwen took a step toward her and threw her arms around her neck. Helen was so shocked that she didn’t say anything for a few moments. “Thank you, Helen. Thank you.”
“It’s the truth miss. Oh, miss, you’re nice suit. It’s ruined.”
She looked down and started to laugh. Frank’s toast with grape jelly was stuck to her shirt. “No, problem. I didn’t like this outfit anyway,” she started to walk-out, “Helen, we have our work cut out for us today, don’t we?”
Her husband came home two hours early and walked into the kitchen to see his wife, grimly with flour and other food sticking the appetizer into the oven. “What in the hell are you doing?” his cold voice penetrated the laughter and cozy like atmosphere in the kitchen.
“I’m fixing dinner Dear, you do remember we have a dinner party planned for tonight.” She straightened and untied her apron.
“That’s why we hired Helen, dear. So you wouldn’t have to cook,” he grabbed her by the arm roughly, “Will you excuse us for a moment.” He pulled her from the kitchen. She barely had enough time to throw her apron onto a counter before he pulled her up the stairs, almost hard enough to jerk it out of its socket. He threw her into their room and shut the door behind him, “Why must you always contradict me in front of the help?” he asked running to her and holding her arms painfully tight. His eyes burned through her.
She should be panicking by the tone of his voice alone but she strangely calm. She stared him down and with ice coating her voice, “I’m sorry, dear. It won’t happen again.
His rage grew her tone demeaning him, like his mother’s, her sharp penetrating voice drilling holes in his head. He felt the holes coming back. He balled his fists and rammed it into her stomach. He watched her crumple into the fetal position on the floor, the wind knocked out of her. He kicked her when she was down, once, twice and a third time in the soft, bruised tissue of her abdomen. He kneeled down and his thin, cold fingers grabber her chin forcing her to look at him. “Think twice before you do it again, love.” And with that he walked out quietly shutting the door behind him, paying his gasping wife sprawled on the floor absolutely no mind as he walked back down the stairs.
She lie there for a moment, a lot like a rag doll she thought. She felt something inside her rip. Not so much a physical rip as an emotional one. She tried sitting up by collapsed onto her back on the floor, the slight muscles in her stomach screaming in protest. She vehemently cursed under her breath as she pulled herself to her feet. She stumbled to the bathroom and carefully removed her clothes, her injuries making movement, and movement at all very painful.
Relaxation washed over her body as the scalding water eased her aches and pains. She couldn’t afford to spend the leisure time she needed in the shower so after she quickly scrubbed her body and hair she turned off the water. She stepped onto the cold tile floor, her skin pink as she pulled on her cream silk robe and sat on the small bench in front oh her bureau starring at her complexion. There wasn’t a scratch on her face. She smiled wryly. He knew better than to mark her anywhere visible the night of the party.
He hasn’t marked her face for some time now. He doesn’t want to damage his trophy wife and showing her around black and blue would mar his reputation. She turned on the hair dryer and began drying her hair. It want until a few minutes later and mere seconds after she switched the machine off, her husband breezed in. her body tensed as she brushed her auburn locks that fell lushly to her shoulders.
He walked up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “You look beautiful, honey.”
She smiled her strained smile as he bent to her level and stuck his nose in her hair. She pull away and stood up. “We have to hurry. Guests will be arriving shortly.” She walked into her closet and dressed quickly. The white skirt and matching low cut shirt with a sheer over shirt was elegant and brought out her eyes. She walked out of her closet and sat at her bureau, peach lip stick in her hand.
As she carefully applied the pale peach to her lips, her hand barely shaking for she knew he stared, at her in the mirror. She just waited for him to start on her. She didn’t have to wait long. “Are you sure you want to wear that,” his slimy voice asked from behind her.
She finished with her lips and set the tube down carefully. She took a deep breath and responded, “Yes/”
“I think the red would suit you better. Don’t you?” He tossed his hair in the mirror and placed a restraining hand on her shoulder.
“No. I like what I’m wearing.” Her eyes met his in the mirror; the flash of defiance obvious in her face.
“No,” he spun her around and grabbed her neck lifting her a few feet in the air, “You’ll not only wear the red dress I want you to wear but you’ll be the picture perfect wife I know you can be. I’m going to hurt you, Gwen, if you don’t. You know I will.”
Tears ran down her cheeks as he set her on her feet. She wiped them casually with the back of her hand as she walked into her closet and changed.
She was late getting downstairs because she had to change. Guests were all ready arriving. Her husband was talking to a young co-worker and his wife. He motioned to his watch, a look of disappointment on his face. She shrugged it off and pushed her shoulders back as she checked on her other guests. The party went on beautifully. She got several compliments on the food and no one’s drink was empty for long. She didn’t exchange more than ten words with her husband all night. She knew better than to interrupt his smoozing. The party could get him a raise.
She felt eyes on her everywhere she went. The small red dress she wore didn’t help matter much. Her cleavage was popping out the front and her ass hanging out the back. She felt uncomfortable. A man grabbed her are gently. “Gwen, I want you to meet my wife, Angela. Angela, this if Frank’s wife, Gwen.”
“Oh, Hello. Are you having a good time?” she asked her attention on Frank’s boss and his lovely wife.
“Yes, a wonderful time considering it’s a business party. You did a great job tonight,” Angela said.
“Yes, a wonderful job,” James said absently. “Tell me, Gwen, how do you think our expansion in the orient will go?”
Without blinking she replied, “Well, Mr. Lawson…”
“Please. Call me James,”
Well, James, over half the world’s population live in the portion of the world. There are over 3 billion potential customers, a mighty resource just waiting to be tapped. Besides if McDonald’s can do it why can’t you’re company.”
Both he and his wife laughed as Gwen sipped her champagne. “Gwen, you have a fresh mind with lots of original ideas. I wish you would reconsider coming to work for me.”
“Well, James, it’s a nice offer. But I don’t think Frank would like that too much.” She turned and found him watching her. She waved.
“I think you’re right about that.”
“I have some things to see to in the kitchen. “If you’ll excuse me.” She walked quickly away.
“I don’t like that man too much, “Angela said to her husband.
“Neither do I. And to tell you the truth Gwen’s ideas have done more for this company than anything Frank ever did.”
“Yes, but there’s something else. Something I cant quite put my finger on. He’s evil, James. Just plain evil.”
“I know what you mean, honey. I’m going to talk to him after the party. I’m going to have to let him go. I told him this party wasn’t such a good idea but he wouldn’t listen.”
“Everything ran smoothly,” she thought as she said goodbye to the last guest. She heard something break in the parlor and ran across the foyer, concerned.
“Get out of my house,” she heard her husband say through the door.
She stepped back before Mr. Lawson threw open the sliding door and slammed it shut behind him. “James, what’s wrong?” she asked touching his arm to stop him.
“Well, isn’t that nice. My boss getting cozy with my wife.”
James shook his head in degusts and walked out without saying a word. “Frank, what happened?” she asked the terror climbing its way up her throat.
“What did you say to him you bitch? I saw you talking to James all night. Well, you got what you wanted didn’t you. He fired me.” He drank from the half empty brandy snifter finishing it off.
“I’m sorry. But I didn’t say anything. “She stammered her hands out in front of her.
“Liar,” he screamed, throwing the glass against the wall.
He rushed toward her, his fists pounding her face and heard. “No, don’t,” she tried to mouth, the blood spilling from her lips. He pulled her hair as he dragged her up the stairs to the bedroom they shared. She screamed.
He threw her into their bedroom, against the bed. She banged her hip and tumbled to the ground. He started to kick her in the stomach and chest, the sharp point of his shoes crushing bones. She tried to crawl away but he followed. Just when she thought he would never stop, it did. She didn’t know what happened but everything just stopped and the world went black.
She awoke some time later in a hospital bed, the bright fluorescents hurting her eyes. She screamed, the pain bring tears to her eyes. A nurse came running in. A small woman in colorful scrubs with teddy bears on the front walked up to her and gently stroked her forehead, soothing her nerve and her pain with a twist of the dial. She felt nothing as a young, attractive doctor walked into her room.
“Hello, Gwen. How are you felling today?”
“Better. What day is it?” How long have I been here?”
“Well, it’s Tuesday. You were admitted Saturday night. So you’ve been in and out four days.”
“What’s wrong with me?” she asked the tears stinging her face.
The doctor walked up to her and took her hand and with the kind nurse holding the other he told her, “Gwen, your nose is broken, your bottom lip is busted, your right lung collapsed from extreme force, you have three broken ribs, a shallow cut above your left eye,” he paused squeezing her hand in reassurance.
“Oh, is that all.”
“Aside for some bumps and bruises, yeah, that pretty much sums it up.”
“That’s a relief.”
“I wish all my patients had your sense of humor. But to be serious for a moment. I want to ask you a question and I want you to be honest with me.” He sat beside her on the bed and stared into her eyes.
“Who did this to you?”
She knew the question was coming. She didn’t answer right away but before he could ask again she answered, “My husband.”
“What, I didn’t hear you?”
“My husband did this to me,” she said louder.
“I suspected as much. Do you want to press charges, Gwen?”
“Yes. I want him in jail for what he did to me.”
The doctor stood up and marked on his clipboard. “I admired your courage, Gwen. A lot of the women I see every day wouldn’t press charges on the husbands if their life depended on it. Most of them end up in the morgue and their husbands set free on a technicality. You’re doing the right thing. Annie get the police up here as soon as possible. Gwen, my name is Dr. Archer and I’ll be back check on you later,” the nurse would out, “Try and get some sleep.” He patted her knee before walking out.
She dozed for a little while. Her eyes opened of the gently knock, knock on her hospital door. Two officers, a man and a woman walked in the took her statement. It took about half an hour, and as the cops were leaving she asked, “Do you think he’ll go to jail for what he’s done?”
The female cop turned, took one look at her and said, “Ma’am, we’ll make sure he gets put away for a long time.”
“Thank you, officer.”
Get better, Ma’am.” They walked out and shut the door behind them.
“Hello, Gwen. Are you feeling any better today?” Dr. Archer asked walking in, sitting on her bed and taking her hand.
“I’m better now, Dr. Archer. Thank for asking.” She winced as a wave of pain hit her. She squeezed his hand until it passed.
“I know it hurts. But the only comfort I can give you it that it will pass. You will get better. All it takes it time,” he stood up and read her chart posted at the foot of her bed, “Well, from what I see here you’re doing fine. The only thing that worries me is your lung. We’ll keep you in the ICU for another twenty-four hours to make sure it’s all right.” He marked something off and put the pen back into his lab coat. “I’m going to give you something for the pain. It might make you sleep but you won’t feel the hurt anymore,” he pulled a syringe from his pocket and found a vein in her arm, “Okay, a little sting.” She looked into his eyes as he gently rubber her forehead. He stayed until she fell asleep before he left to make his rounds.
She awoke hours later and saw the good Dr. Archer asleep in a chair in the corner of her room, his lab coat wrinkled, his hair mussed. She could do nothing but go back to sleep. Over the next few weeks, she continued to get better. The only indication that she was still ill was slight discoloration of her nose and the tenderness in her ribs that smarted when she moved.
She heard from the police that her husband was in jail for spousal abuse and attempted murder. While her husband was rotting away in jail for this little while, she got to know Dr. Archer or John as he asked her to call him, a frequent visitor. She learned that he was a single, compassionate man who worked hard to help others and that he had a slight crush on her. He visited her several times a day and they talked. He convinced her to see a lawyer and while she was still in the hospital she had the papers delivered to the jail. The papers were just a formality since he was incarcerated his signature wasn’t required to finalize the divorce.
“She was a free woman,” She thought as John pushed the wheelchair out the front doors of the hospital. She was completely healed. John helped her out of the chair and help her hand.
“Gwen, you must know how I feel about you.” “I do know John. I feel the same. You’re the first man I’ve ever met that is completely selfless. You actually care for others.”
His beeper went off incessantly. “I want you to call me when you get settled.” He walked her to her car. I’m going to take you out to dinner. To a nice restaurant whenever you’re ready,” he opened her door and shut it behind her, “Drive safe,” he murmured waving as she drove off.
She pulled into her driveway and climbed from her car. The house looked the same, ever though it’s been more than a month since she’s seen it. She honestly didn’t miss it, she thought as she walked through the door. This place was filled with nothing but bad memories. She made a decision in that one moment standing in the foyer. She would move and sell this awful place to a nice family that could appreciate it. No one was in the house, of that she could be certain. She dismissed all the household staff with generous pension checks because she knew that it was the staff that stopped her husband from killing her. It was her chef and the butler that stood up to Frank and then drove her to the hospital afterward.
She ran up the stairs and into the bedroom she shared with Frank for far too many years. She saw the neatly made bed and immaculate bedroom and she was filled with rage. That he actually thought that he could get away with treating another human being like that. His wife, his partner in life of all people. A vicious grunt resonated in her throat. A was cry as she ran to the bed and threw everything to the floor. She ran to his closet and tore his neatly pressed clothes from theirs hangers one by one, ripping and shredding as she went. She lost all sense of time as she destroyed everything that was his.
She stumbled out of the closet, her hair in her eyes, sweat drenching her body. She wasn’t used to this strenuous exercise; her breath was heaving in and out as she stared at herself in the mirror. She felt better; she had to admit. She started to laugh, a tension releasing nervous habit she couldn’t break. She figured laughing was better than crying and there was only a thin line between the two right then.
“What’s so funny?” Frank asked as she quieted down.
She spun around and saw her husband, ex-husband, standing across the room from her wearing the state issued gray jump suit they gave him in jail. “What, no smart come back?” He started to pace back and forth, “I seem to remember you always had a smart mouth, Gwen.”
Gwen knew better than to panic. She felt along the counter behind her for anything to defend herself with. “What are you doing here, Frank? You’re not supposed to be here.”
“I come to get you Gwen. Did you actually think I’d let you go Gwen.”
He walked slowly toward her. She picked up the heaviest she could find, a can of face cream and threw it at him shouting, “Stop”.
Her first shot hit its mark, the center of his forehead. But she threw more, on thing after another until he fell to his knees. Blood was running down his face, blurring his vision. She quickly dived across the bed and reached into the nightstand, pulling out the gun she knew would be there. He wasn’t far behind her. He twisted the hand that held the gun and she dropped it. The gun landed several feet across the room. Frank punched her and she fell to the floor. Gwen went for the gun but he grabbed her leg stopping her. She quickly started to kick him, her bare feet going into his face once, twice.
Finally fed up he punched her in the lower back. She lay still, stunned. He climbed up her body and using his weight pinned her to the ground. She tried pummeling him wit her fists but he grabbed her wrists and pinned them over her heard. “I’m going to make you pay, Gwen,” he rubber against her provocatively, “ For everything you did bitch.” In one last attempt she drived her knee into his groin. His face turned red and his breath heaved in and out as he rolled off her grabbing his injured family jewels.
She rushed for the gun and stood up the 9mm in her hand. He got to his feet, clumsily swaying back and forth. He saw the gun. “You won’t do it, Gwen. You don’t have the balls to shoot me, Gwen.”
“Come to me, Frank. Please, walk to me,” she said tears running down her face but not blurring her vision. He charged toward her, a cocky look on his face. She pulled the trigger; the gun kicked in her hand. The bullet went into his chest where his heart would be if had one. He stopped in his tracks, his curious fingers touching the wound, a look of utter shock twisting his features. She swallowed once before she fired between the eyes. He fell to the floor and never got up again.
Almost a year later to the day Gwen was in the kitchen of her new five bedroom home in the suburbs. She pulled two glasses from the cupboard and filled them with ice. She took a pitcher of lemonade from the stainless steel refrigerator and poured it. She walked quickly through the house and out the front door. She sat down on the wide swing on her front porch and handed her husband his drink. “Thanks, honey,” he said taking a sip and wrapping his arm around his wife.
She rested her head on his shoulder. “John, you know how much I love you?”
“About as much as I love you,” he replied kissing her.
“Well, I have something to tell you. Something that’s going to change our lives,” She sat up and stared into his eyes.
“What is it honey? You can tell me anything.”
“I’m pregnant.” She held her breath as she waited for his response.
His grip on her shoulder tightened before he jumped to his feet. “You mean I’m going to be a father,” he said excitedly. He took her drink and set them on the table beside the swing. He pulled her to her feet and crushed her against him in a bear hug. “Dance with me, Gwen,” The started to sway back and forth, “You’ve made me the happiest man alive, Gwen.”
She smiled to herself, relieved more than she cared to admit. “So, Dr. Archer, would you rather it be a boy or a girl?” She asked her cheek against his.
“It doesn’t matter as long as it healthy. It will be ours whether it’s a boy or a girl and we’ll raise it with all the love we have for each other.”
“Good answer.” She kissed her husband as they danced on their front porch indiscreetly happy for the first time in her life.